I Predict A Riot

Kenya goes to the polls tomorrow. It’s shaping up to be the closest election in Kenyan history. Raila started with a huge lead in the polls – perhaps not surprising as he started campaigning three years ago after walking out of the government. Kibaki reeled him in, only to see Raila head out in front again. The polls now are putting them pretty much neck and neck, with Raila maybe just a nose in front.

It would be a great story if he won. I can count the number of times a sitting African president has lost an election on the fingers of one foot. Many of my colleagues are talking up the chances of a Raila victory.

But he won’t win. Kibaki’s power base is the Kikuyu tribe, packed with professionals, entrepreneurs and the civil servants he promoted. Raila’s support comes from the Luos of Lake Victoria – an almost equally formidable set of operators. But his support is also drawn disproportionately from the poor, the unemployed, and the disenfranchised. His key lieutenants have nothing like the election machine of their rival. They may be close in the polls, but I reckon that translates into a seven-point start for Kibaki.

Kepha Ngito in KiberaSo, when the votes are counted I predict a comfortable win for the incumbent and business as usual for Kenyan politics. (I have $100 riding on the result.) Raila’s supporters will no doubt riot, and there is a very real chance he could actually lose his Langata seat (Here’s my story about a young guy trying to keep a lid on things).

Or – given that I am writing this from a small village in the English Home Counties with a belly full of turkey – I could be totally wrong.


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